This blog was born at the very lake I’m about to leave. Although it’s relaxing, there’s an element of chaos to a family vacation that stirs up creativity. Tomorrow’s long day of travel back east, however, will mean another day without a post. Flights leave so early that you barely have time to slither out of bed to the shuttle, and the airport hotspots want your money to connect. I’d rather maintain radio silence for a day. That doesn’t mean I won’t keep my eyes open for religion hidden in the interstices of American life. Since religion and mythology share sleeping quarters, I’m reminded of something I saw up here in the northwest the other day. While in a local grocery and souvenir shop (for all groceries in this area carry souvenirs) I saw sasquatch dolls.
Such cryptids are unknown to science, of course. Even if they really exist, their liminal status now places them firmly in the realms of mythology. Being in the wilderness can be an uncanny experience. Long accustomed to dwelling in cities and towns, we feel vulnerable out in the open. Taking walks in the woods might just put you in the path of black bears, grizzlies, or mountain lions. Who knows what else might be hiding in these woods? It’s easy to believe in our myths here. Vacation, in addition to being the ultimate reality, counts as time borrowed against work and its punishing rationality. Religion thrives in the quiet moments when you’re not sure what might be hiding just out of view.
Did ancient people devise belief in such circumstances as this? (Well, without the wifi and indoor plumbing, of course.) It’s not hard to feel the spirit of the lake. Standing chest-deep in the water, being rolled by the waves, there’s a kind of secular baptism taking place. In the quiet unearthly voices can be heard. No television or newspaper tells you that it can’t be happening. Listening is much easier with no distractions. These woods are vast. Human access to them is limited to marked and maintained trails. Beyond these borders, who knows? Science comforts us with the assurance that there are no monsters out there. Standing isolated from any other human beings, surrounded by ancient trees, you might begin to wonder if such assurance is as certain as it sounds. The sasquatches are children’s toys, and the sense of the numinous you feel can, like all extraordinary things, be explained away.